Asian scene: Lagumbay sees off Obara
Keita Obara's wild brawl with Alvin Lagumbay was among the highlights of April's action in Asia. Marcus Bellinger is back with his latest indispensable round-up...
On 4 April Mark John Yap retained his OPBF bantamweight title with a hard-fought 12 round decision over game challenger Takafumi Nakagima at the Korakuen Hall. The scorecards read 116-112 twice and 117-111 and the Filipino’s good run continues as he attempts to secure a world title tilt.
The flow of top-flight Uzbek and Kazakh amateurs transitioning to the professional ranks continues to gather pace, with the latest to make the move being 2016 world youth welterweight champion Sadriddin Akhmedov. The 20-year-old has signed with Canadian based company Eye of the Tiger Management and blasted out Tony Barreras inside a round on 7 April on his pro debut. Akhmedov possesses heavy hands and an aggressive style that should see him thrive as a professional.
There was a huge upset and a rare occurrence at the Korakuen Hall on 12 April as Keita Obara lost his WBO Asia Pacific strap via second-round stoppage to Alvin Lagumbay. Obara got off to the perfect start as a left hook floored Lagumbay within the first minute but then the man from Japan became careless and allowed the challenger back into the contest.
The pair continued to trade in round two before both hit the canvas simultaneously and whilst Lagumbay was able to recover, Obara was on wobbly legs and was unable to continue, handing the Filipino a fantastic victory.
You can view the extraordinary contest between Obara and Lagumbay by clicking here
On the same show Richard Pumicpic retained his WBO Asia Pacific featherweight title recording a unanimous 12 round decision over unbeaten Yoshimitsu Kimura. The challenger had his moments throughout but Pumicpig’s extra experience eventually told and the Filipino’s work rate proved to be the difference in the end with judges' totals of 116-112 twice and 115-113 giving him the win.
Also originally scheduled for this card was a contest for the vacant Japanese bantamweight crown, however Yusuke Suzuki pulled out with an injury from this bout against Suguru Muranaka. A new date has been pencilled in with Muranaka to face Yuta Saito on 22 June for the vacant belt at the Korakuen Hall.
Ryota Murata had no issues in dealing with Emmanuele Blandamura when the pair met at the Yokohama Arena on 15 April. Murata patiently waited for openings as the Italian offered little offensively to trouble the home man. After four rounds the bout was in real danger of becoming rather monotonous and even when Murata upped the pace in the next two stanzas Blandamura was still standing.
After a quiet seventh Murata finally made the breakthrough in round eight and the contest was brought to a close. The Japanese middleweight proved to be a ratings hit once again with an average audience of just over 6 million and a peak of over 7 million tuning into proceedings on Fuji TV in the Kanto region alone.
A horror week for Daigo Higa ended with him not only losing his WBC flyweight title but also his unbeaten record and KO streak as he was pulled out in the ninth round of his bout versus Christopher Rosales. Higa had looked out of sorts all week and came in 2lbs over the weight limit and had the dubious distinction of being the first Japanese boxer to lose a world title on the scales.
From the off it was obvious that Higa lacked the usual snap and intensity that he normally brings to the party but Rosales stuck to his game plan and boxed extremely well at range. Higa had spurts of success but even on the inside the Nicaraguan was getting the better of things.
Despite the closeness on the cards at the eight-round mark Higa was running on fumes and the decision of the corner to save him for another day was a wise one but the 22-year-old’s team really shouldn’t have allowed the contest to go ahead and need to have a long hard look at themselves.
Subsequently Higa has been indefinitely suspended by the JBC, been fined 20 per cent of his purse. Additionally, he will have to move up in weight and will only be allowed to return subject to the satisfaction of the JBC regarding his health as the governing body aim to clamp down on the cluster of fighters missing weight in Japanese rings this year.
On the undercard in Yokohama flyweight talent Junto Nakatani impressed in his step-up bout versus Mario Andrade, pounding out a unanimous eight-round technical decision with scores of 79-74, 80-73 and 80-72.
Tsubasa Koura moved a step closer to a world title shot at 105lbs as he retained his OPBF belt with a fifth-round stoppage of Norihito Tanaka at the Korakuen Hall on 17 April. After a measured beginning from both, a huge right hand dropped Koura at the end of the opening stanza.
The champion showed no visible signs of discomfort from the knockdown and boxed well over the next two rounds. Tanaka managed to find some success in the fourth as the pair went toe-to-toe but a cracking right hand from Koura in round five shook up the challenger and a follow-up attack floored Tanaka who was unable to continue.
Afterwards Koura stated his desire to take on either of the Thai champions Wanheng Menayothin or Knockout CP Freshmart and the youngster would certainly be more than competitive against both.
Also on this bill Shingo Wake scored a fourth-round stoppage over Roman Canto and the Japanese southpaw expressed his wish for a second world title fight. Incidentally there has been much talk of a clash between Wake and current Japanese super bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga who returns on 27 July to defend his national strap.
In what looked an interesting fight on paper in Singapore on 20 April at bantamweight, Michael Dasmarinas took on Karim Guerfi. Guerfi out boxed Dasmarinas over the first three rounds but in the fourth the Frenchman let his guard down and a booming left hand from Dasmarinas saw the bout come to a sudden end. With the win the underrated Filipino puts himself right in the frame for a crack at a world title.
21 April was a busy one involving Asian fighters with the action commencing with an intriguing all-Thai super flyweight showdown between Nawaphon Por Chokchai and Amnat Ruenroeng. Amnat was fast out of the traps and consistently beat Nawaphon to the punch over the first two rounds, landing with lovely combinations and there was none of the usual spoiling and wrestling tactics from the former IBF flyweight champion.
It was clear the size and power advantages were with Nawaphon and eventually, as Amnat’s legs slowed, these advantages came into play with Nawaphon prevailing via fifth-round stoppage. For Amnat it’s hard to see where he goes from here.
Over in Belfast there was to be no turning back the clock for Nonito Donaire as Carl Frampton won a 12-round unanimous decision in their featherweight clash. After a close opening stanza Frampton proved to be too sharp and his disciplined game plan saw him dart in and out which never allowed the Filipino to set himself to score with his noted power shots.
Donaire had some success with the left hook and uppercuts at times and, as Frampton slowed down, he poured it on in the last two rounds but it was the man from Northern Ireland who was declared the victor at the final bell with all three cards reading 117-111.
Over at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, Murodjon Akhmadaliev notched his second pro win by stopping Carlos Gaston Suarez in four rounds while fellow Uzbek Shakhram Giyasov scored a unanimous decision over six rounds versus Gabor Gorbics.
The next day saw yet more action as Tatsuya Fukuhara got back in the winning column with an eight-round points victory over Yuto Takahashi via cards of 78-74 twice and 77-74, while Hinata Maruta beat Arega Yunian in three rounds. Also over in Russia, Indonesian Daud Yordan impressively halted undefeated Pavel Malikov in eight rounds to push himself nearer to a lightweight title opportunity.
Finally there were two results of significance on 28 April, Shun Kubo just about overcame Hiroshige Osawa in a 'crossroads' contest in Kobe via scores of 96-93, 97-95 and 94-95 and Daniyar Yeleussinov saw off Noah Kidd in three rounds on his pro debut in New York.
In May, Azizbek Abdugofurov faces his biggest test on 5 May when he clashes with Dmittrii Chudinov for the vacant WBC Silver super-middleweight strap in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Abdugofurov is coming off a unanimous eight-round decision victory over Alfonso Tissen in March. Chudinov is remember most for his 12th-round stoppage loss to Chris Eubank Jr back in 2014 and his form has been mixed of late with a ten-round points defeat to Lolenga Mock back in January followed by a points win over Sergey Komitsky in February.
OPBF light welterweight champion Rikki Naito returns to defend his belt against Jheritz Chavez at the Korakuen Hall on 15 May.
Hard-hitting Filipino Romero Duno returns at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California on 17 May as the headline act on a Golden Boy ESPN 2 broadcast. Duno’s last ring appearance saw him drill Yardley Armenta Cruz inside a round and now the exciting lightweight will be up against Gilberto Gonzalez in a bout that is scheduled for tenrounds. The Mexican hasn’t fought since a unanimous ten-round decision loss at the hands of Mercito Gesta last April.
Jason Moloney looks to take the next step in becoming a world champion when he squares off against rugged former 115lbs champion Kohei Kono on 19 May in Australia. Moloney was highly impressive in disposing of former world title challenger Emmanuel Naidjala in three rounds back in February and the 27-year-old knows that another notable win should put him right in the mix for a big fight. Kono hasn’t been in the ring since his technical decision loss to Rex Tso back in October but the 37-year-old showed in that contest he still had something left to offer.
On the same card Jason’s brother Andrew faces Filipino Richard Claveras. Moloney showed real maturity when he outpointed Rene Dacquel to capture the OPBF super flyweight title back in February and even in a crowded weight class such as 115lbs if he keeps winning then eventually a world title bout will surely come. Claveras has had some good wins on the domestic scene at home and was unlucky not to claim the OPBF flyweight crown from Keisuke Nakayama last June, eventually losing a split decision and the 27-year-old always comes to fight.
A day later at the Ota-City General Gymnasium unified light flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi makes his ring return against Hekkie Budler. Taguchi is coming off arguably a career-best performance which saw him add the IBF belt as he defeated Milan Melindo over 12 rounds on the last day of 2017. Budler will be aiming to become a two-weight world titlist after coming up narrowly short against Melindo in September 2017.
Also slated for this show is IBF strawweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi who will make his second defence against unbeaten Vince Paras. Kyoguchi was highly impressive in his first defense against Carlos Buitrago and will be aiming to perform well once again as he aims to secure a unification bout for later on in the year. Paras is a bit of an unknown quantity and the teenager has campaigned at light flyweight for the majority of his career but with 11 of his 13 wins coming inside the distance he makes for an interesting foe for Kyoguchi.
Also on the Tokyo card Masataka Taniguchi squares off against Pedro Taduran for the WBO Asia Pacific strawweight crown. Taniguchi has two narrow losses to Riya Konishi and Tsubasa Koura but another defeat would set him back massively. Taduran has a fifth-round knockout win over Jerry Tomogdan and a win over Robert Onggocan and the Filipino southpaw presents a stiff challenger for Taniguchi. Also featuring is Nihito Arakawa who faces Filipino Rimar Metuda for the WBO Asia Pacific lightweight trinket.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar returns to the ring on 26 May when he squares off against Colombian Oscar Escandon. Like many fighters under the PBC umbrella inactivity has been an issue for the Mongolian who hasn’t stepped between the ropes since a taxing eight-round decision victory over Harmonito Dela Torre last November. Escandon has mixed in good company but he was stopped easily in seven rounds by WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr last May.
On the same night the first all-Filipino world title fight since 1925 will take place as IBF super-flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas tangles with mandatory challenger Jonas Sultan. Both are in great form and with the extra added significance this should be something to savour.
Shuychiro Yoshino makes the second defence of his Japanese lightweight strap at the Korakuen Hall on 14 June versus Genki Maeda. Also featuring is WBO Asia Pacific bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara who goes up against two-time world title challenger Teiru Kinoshita.
Artem Dalakian’s mandatory defence of his flyweight bauble against Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep is set to take place in Kiev on 17 June. Dalakian should be brimming with confidence after his victory over Brian Viloria in February which saw him claim the vacant title. Yodmongkol has solid wins over Koki Eto and Takuya Kagawa but has faced a string of low level opponents since a stoppage loss to Juan Carlos Reveco back in 2014.
It’s now official, Manny Pacquiao will take on Lucas Matthysse at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur on 15 July and for fans of the Asian scene the undercard is truly outstanding.
Unbeaten Filipino Jhack Tepora faces once beaten Mexican Edivaldo Ortega. Tepora’s last bout came last September when he viciously knocked out Lusanda Komanisi in South Africa and the 25-year-old was in danger of disappearing into obscurity but thankfully this opportunity gives him a chance to display his skills on a huge platform. Ortega has victories over Drian Francisco, Tomas Rojas, Juan Carlos Sanchez and Christian Esquivel with the 27-year-old’s only loss coming in December 2016 to Eduardo Ramirez.
With Donnie Nietes having vacated the IBF flyweight belt to move up to super flyweight, the vacant crown will be contested between Muhammad Waseem and Moruti Mthalane. Waseem was in line to challenge then WBC champion Daigo Higa but unfortunately financial restraints prevented that from happening. However the Pakistani has proved his ability with excellent 12 round points victories over Jether Oliva and Giemel Magrano in just his fourth and fifth fights respectively. Mthalane has been a victim of some of the chaos that has blighted South African boxing over the last few years and at the age of 35 it’s unclear how much he has left. In his prime he was a genuine world class operator having beaten Johnriel Casimero, Zolani Tete and Hussein Hussein and he gave Nonito Donaire a tough time in their 2008 meeting before being stopped on cuts.
The fourth contest of note sees Chinese hopeful Lu Bin daringly challenge regular light-flyweight belt holder Carlos Canizales in just his second pro outing. The 23-year-old debuted last September, easily seeing off Chatchai Or Benjamas inside three rounds and he actually claimed the national amateur title earlier this year. Canizales was slightly fortunate to come away with the decision against Riya Konishi in March but the Venezuelan is especially dangerous on the front foot and has solid power.